The Los Angeles Lakers made an abrupt shift in their management regime last season when Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were ousted from their posts and quickly replaced with two very different personalities in Magic Johnson, one of the most legendary Lakers of all-time, and Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s former agent.
The two men Johnson and Pelinka replaced weren’t exactly beloved by either fans or the media, so it was clear from day one that the two would have a low bar to clear to make the fanbase happy. But it didn’t mean that there weren’t concerns with their resumes.
One such worry for some was both Johnson’s and Pelinka’s lack of experience running an NBA team. They each were league insiders, and the Los Angeles Dodgers (who Johnson is a part-owner of) had had success during his tenure.
Meanwhile, Pelinka was touted as a cap genius as an agent, but neither had actually made the final decision on NBA personnel moves before, and it wasn’t clear that relative green-ness wouldn’t come back to bite the Lakers.
During an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, however, Pelinka said that his time as an agent gave him a unique scope with which to view the NBA:
“I’ve said before that I feel like the seat of a general manager is not a seat of judgment. It’s a seat of responsibility, and I feel really strongly about that. I have a responsibility to do the best job I can, not judge the past or judge what others have done. But what I can say is this, Sam: I’ve had the opportunity to really have an inside look at, really, all 30 NBA organizations, because over my two decades as an agent, I had clients on virtually every team. So I really got to see, ‘What is this team really good at?’ ‘Hey, what is this team not so good at in terms of managing agent/player relationships?'”
The Lakers have yet to make any obvious, gigantic blunders under Pelinka and Johnson, and most of their personnel moves have been relatively well-received. From their draft haul in 2017 to when they dealt Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline last season.
The only remotely polarizing move the team has made so far is their decision to trade D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets in order to convince them to take on Timofey Mozgov’s bloated contract. But even that move had its fans for cap space creation and chemistry reasons.
It’s not immediately clear what, if any, aspects of Pelinka’s insider knowledge of the rest of the NBA had an effect on those choices. But it is worth noting that a lack of tradition general managing experience doesn’t necessarily mean other life experiences did not prepare him to the be the Lakers’ executive of the future.
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